VISAKHAPATNAM: The fire at the incubator room of Victoria Government Hospital for Maternity Care (VGHMC) here has cast a cloud on the startlingly poor fire safety measures taken by hospitals. Of the 146 registered hospitals in the city, just 25 have No Objection Certificates (NOC) from the Fire Safety Department of Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC).
District fire officer J Mohana Rao said not just VGHMC, but most government hospitals don't have NOCs.
"Government hospitals very rarely have No Objection Certificates, not only in the city but also the district," a senior official with the Fire Safety Department said.
According to the fire safety wing of GVMC, even King George Hospital (KGH), which sees around 1,200 out patients and 1,000 in patients per day, doesn't have an NOC. When Express contacted KGH superintendent L Arjuna, he said, "We have adequate fire safety equipment at required points, but I'm unaware if the hospital has an NOC."
An official with the GVMC revealed that most posh corporate hospitals too, don't have NOCs from the Fire Safety Department. "As a most corporate hospitals have five to six floors, alert systems are necessary, but most don't have any. Proper sprinklers are also absent," said an official from the GVMC. He said the entry and exit points of floors weren't spacious enough to accommodate crowds in case an untoward incident takes place in the city.
"A few hospitals are located in interior regions, making it difficult for fire tenders to reach on time. For every 600 sq metres, there should be at least four buckets of sand and four fire extinguishers. Water tanks too are a must. Some have old fire extinguishers that don't work," he said.
Meanwhile, officials in the Fire Safety Department said most hospitals haven't trained their personnel on how to respond to fire accidents. "Fighting the fire for the first five to 10 minutes with sand and water is very important, but most hospital staff are not trained to do this," said a Fire Department official.
"Authorities of many hospitals have paid fines and few have applied for NOC. Many don't bother to renew certificates. We are going to take action against erring hospitals," said a GVMC official on condition of anonymity.